American Life in Poetry: Column 627


How many Oak Grove Cemeteries can there be in America? There's one just a mile from my home. Here's another, with a poet, Don Thompson, to show us around. Poetry thrives on sounds as well as sense, and the vowel sounds in line eight are especially artfully collected. Thompson lives in California and his most recent book is A Journal of the Drought Year (Encircle Publications, 2016).

Oak Grove Cemetery

Just enough rain an hour ago
to give the wispy dry grass some hope,
turning it green instantly.

This place has been abandoned,
the old faith overgrown, confused
by brambles,
and in these hard times,
its upkeep cut from the budget.

But we walk, soaked to the knees,
making our slow pilgrimage
among gravestones, speaking
blurred names back into the world.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Don Thompson, “Oak Grove Cemetery,” from The Cortland Review, (Issue 66,2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Don Thompson and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.